The Pit and the Pendulum Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

This lesson plan will help students cite text evidence when drawing inferences and analyze techniques for building suspense as they read 'The Pit and the Pendulum' by Edgar Allan Poe.

Learning Objective

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Cite text evidence when drawing inferences
  • Examine Poe's methods for creating suspense


60 minutes

Common Core Curriculum Standards


Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.


Analyze how an author's choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.


  • abyss
  • autos-da-fé
  • bauble
  • cadence
  • chasm
  • galvanic
  • General Lasalle
  • gossamer
  • Inquisition
  • insuperable
  • King of Terrors
  • locution
  • lucid
  • pertinacity
  • prostrate
  • scimitar
  • spectres
  • subterranean
  • swoon
  • writhe


  • copies of The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe
  • copies of the lesson
  • additional materials highlighted in the individual activities

Warm Up

  • Read The Pit and the Pendulum: Summary and Analysis as a class, discussing as you read:
    • Why is the Spanish Inquisition a good time setting for this short story?
    • How does the narrator react to his sentencing?
    • Is the narrator reliable? Why?
    • How does the dungeon setting change over the course of the story?
    • Why do you think the author chose to manipulate the dungeon?
    • How do you think having an audience affects the narrator?
    • Why do you think Poe chose General Lasalle as the hero of the story?


Close Reading

Materials: copies of The Pit and the Pendulum, orange, yellow and blue highlighter, dictionaries

  • Explain to students that you will be looking for evidence from the text to support inferences. Develop a class definition of an inference.
  • Place students in pairs and have them read The Pit and the Pendulum together.
  • Provide reference materials, such as dictionaries or access to technology to look up unfamiliar words and information as necessary.
  • After reading the story, ask students when and where the story takes place.
  • Have students use a yellow highlighter to highlight all the clues the author leaves that led them to the conclusion that the story takes place during the Spanish Inquisition. (inquisitors, Toledo dungeon, …)
  • Discuss the author's method for revealing that information.
  • Next, have students use an orange highlighter to find all religious allusions.
  • Discuss what this evidence tells the reader about the author's attitude, or tone, towards religion.
  • Finally, have students use a blue highlighter to find all the references to time.
  • Discuss why the theme of time is important to the story.

Creating Suspense

Materials: chart paper, markers, paper, pens, lunch bags, plastic bags, noodles, peeled grapes, corn husk silk, canned peas, furry stuffed animal

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